In most nonprofit associations, education deserves some respect.
Yet it is frequently treated like the Rodney Dangerfield of the association world.
To paraphrase Dangerfield, “Education doesn’t get no respect. No respect, no respect at all. That’s the story of education’s life. Education gets no respect.”
Members Value Education
Typically, education is one of the top three reasons an association even exists.
It’s why people pay a membership fee to join the association. It’s why people attend the association’s annual meeting. It’s usually even listed in the mission statement and strategic plan.
Yet in a recent survey of association professionals, nearly 75 percent of nonprofit association respondents did not have a senior-level executive dedicated to education or professional development. Education was entrusted to mid-management or entry-level employees.
Why is that?
Part of the reason is that many organizations confuse information with education. They focus on information transfer and training when really what their members want is learning. If we understood the difference between information, education and learning, better, we might actually spend resources on providing better learning opportunities.
Ultimately, education and learning deserves some respect.
This Is A Travesty
Even more disturbing is that associations that have an annual budget of $3 million or more only focus 12 percent of the organization’s employees on education. If education is a primary reason people become and remain members, doesn’t it make sense that’s there’s room for growth in resources devoted to education?
For the majority of the survey respondents, the title of the most senior member of their organization’s education or professional development is a director or manager. Rarely are they involved in the strategic direction of the organization.
Who is driving and steering the organization’s education from the C-suite? No one.
Similarly, how often is that director or manager an education professional? Does that employee have formal education in how adults learn and andragogy? I’ve seen some association employees who have come from elementary or secondary schools. They are usually trained in pedagogy not andragogy.
Pedagogy literally means leading children. Andragogy is the art and science of adult learning. There is a difference!
Frequently employees in the education department have come from another department. They may have succeeded as an assistant or coordinator. Their primary role is to serve as project managers and schedulers. They are transactional task masters.
Would we hire an administrator with no experience in marketing for our marketing department? Would we put a coordinator with no understanding of technology in the IT department? So why do we allow it with the education department?
It’s time for education to get more respect. It’s time our associations put their budgets where their mission statements dictate and give education more resources! It’s time our associations give education more respect.
Why do association leaders frequently discount education? How do we increase the value of education in the eyes of the C-suite?